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A Most Important Social Critique

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I know, I know: we have Iraq, and we have Afghanistan, and we have veterans’ medical issues and a budget deficit and national debt that are racing into the heavens more rapidly than one of our galactic space capsules, and we have AIG and bank bailouts and cheats in every corner, and the lines of the unemployed running around city blocks. So why this, now?

This, which I’ll explain in a sec, presumes all the preceding will at some time find resolution. If we don’t believe that, it’s all over and we ought to throw all caution to the wind and have one great last block party. Bring the chips, bring the beer and the booze and the weed, and we’ll call every tomorrow off.

Thing is, I truly do not believe we’re anywhere near to ready for that. We do believe there will be a future, and that today’s woes will become a sad and faded memory in the light of those brighter morns. This thus becomes all important.

I do not know whether my attitudes relative to equality in every realm for women predated those of Phil Donohue. That’s because I have no way of knowing what was roaming through his mind, or when. What I do know is that mine began evolving in the early 60’s with simple questions like, “Why shouldn’t women serve in combat, are their lives more precious to them or their parents than are the lives of sons to their parents?

Not a stupid question only because standard operating procedure in society suggested that a daughter’s life was more important, and that she should be given greater assistance all along her life’s path. Still, the question was neither ever asked nor answered. Nonetheless, to me it appeared that, if every life was important and adjudged equal in the eyes of God (I was a believer back then, or at least a leaner tending in that direction.), by what logic can our policies obtain legitimacy.    

Not just for decades, but in most places, including here, the argument trying to validate a proposition that there was something inherently inferior about women and their abilities to function efficiently and effectively across the swath of enterprises went back millennia. And there was not one thread of evidence that would ever have sustained the notion, if it were ever to have been questioned.

Here’s where I’ve been coming from. In every endeavor where I had to look beyond my own ability to get a job done, I wanted the most capable person(s) doing it. I cared not their color, their ethnicity, their gender preference or their gender. All I asked were, can you do it, can you do it equal to or better than someone else, how long will it take, and how much will it cost?  

In that same regard, if someone needed a handicap to measure up, to answer those questions, the answer was manifest: that person just did not measure up. Given past discrimination, absolutely some preferential treatment certainly was in order.

But such preferential treatment, I felt, and I feel, ought never, ever apply to those fields involving strength, stamina, or what have you; fire fighting, beat police, mountain rescue, Coast Guard service, grunt military work, etc. In those, either the basic job demands certain minimal levels of strength, or it does not. Can one, unassisted, carry a limp body out a burning 4th floor and down a ladder? Can one maneuver a 50-caliber machine gun into position, or drag a wounded buddy to safety? Can you handle yourself with a drunk in a Saturday night bar fight?

If someone could pass the same minimum physical demands as every other candidate, if that person could pass the entrance exams and complete whatever training was necessary, and if he or she could perform on the job equal to or better than others, any debate should have terminated immediately. “HIRED!” and with equal pay, period. If not, that debate should also have ended just as quickly, “SORRY, you do not qualify.”

Back in the day, women were pretty much relegated to four occupations: wife and homemaker and mother; school teacher; nurse; and clerk-typist in an office. Regardless of when, it was always wrong. More important, it was always stupid. Forget for just a moment how it unfairly treated women, it denied to society the widest possible talent pool from which to draw talent.

That’s where I stood. And it’s where I stand.  

My first son was born in 1985, the second in 1988. As I involved myself in their education I began to get more and more angry. Every elementary school book was tilted to young girls, with literally no interest in cultivating a young boy’s interest. The books offered for ancillary reading were either about young girls or young women or were written by women. It was as if the classroom was populated exclusively by a single gender, and boys assumed a caste not so distinct from the untouchables in India.

I doubt any teacher or any school system ever said to or about boys, “You don’t matter.” But that was the unspoken message received by far too many males. Today, women outnumber men in medical schools, in law schools, in business schools, and even in the undergraduate college population. And we continue to pay disparate attention to school-age girls and those young women headed for college. Where boys dominate are in the dropout population, in drug use, in gangs, and in our prison population.

What brought the issue front and center to me was today’s provocative article by Kathleen Parker, “Bring the Boys Along.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031702941_2.html?wpisrc=newsletter) In it she asks a simple question: However it is all well and good to stimulate and cultivate academic interests and the drive to succeed in our girls and women, with whom will they be expected to marry successfully, and to become a good parent alongside, so long as we travel down a social path that dismisses the need to foster similar aspirations in our boys?

Finally, what Ms. Parker also addresses is the myth of present pay disparity. That women earn 78¢ for every dollar earned by a man skews facts in order to make a point that is largely inaccurate. Given the same job description and similar qualifications the difference tends to vanish to imperceptible. (Read the article before opining some challenge.)

 

An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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